Around some cerebral circles in the conservative corners, a discussion about UBI is circulating. Shorthand for Universal Basic Income, it’s an approach being seriously considered by a handful of European countries as a wholesale substitute for their bloated, corrupt welfare systems.
Given that the United States also has a bloated, corrupt welfare system, people on the Left and the Right are wondering if the UBI model could work here. In effect, the entire welfare support system is eliminated—unemployment, food stamps, disability, basic welfare allowances—and every American citizen simply gets a flat check from the government to be used as desired. An allowance, really.
Of course, as others have pointed out, a flat check won’t work for everyone: folks with multiple disabilities and mouths to feed will warrant a bit more than a upper management executive living in a downtown condo. And in short order, we’ll be back to the old system. So are there any benefits?
The Left likes it because it technically expands welfare to include everyone: rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. No one receives welfare anymore (it’s a co-op stipend!), and everyone has skin in the game. There are no stipulations, so if you want to blow your check on Xbox games, do so. Consider it a stimulus. But if you’re poor, that’s it: you don’t get another one until next month.
The Right likes this idea because it reduces the never-ending tax payout from the upper economic tiers. Basically, we spend less on welfare by doing so, and greatly simplify the rules at the same time. Since there are no stipulations on how you spend your stipend, you thereby eliminate corruption. Dump it all on booze or BMWs, if you want—because that’s where it ends.
The Libertarians seems to crave this idea because you now eliminate layers of government, prevent government minders from insisting on means testing, drug tests, auditing, and whatnot. You get your check every month and that’s that.
However, the Libertarians have discovered the one hook that makes this entire discussion moot. It matters not a jot if you like this idea or are opposed to this idea: it isn’t going to happen because it will require a substantial downsizing of government.
For bureaucrats, this isn’t some idle discussion about reforming entitlements or eliminating spending waste. SNAP, WIC, EITC, housing, etc., aren’t just cash transactions—they’re massive jobs programs employing tens of thousands of people. If UBI becomes a real thing, hey—we’re not going to need a lot of these folks, anymore. Actually, you could do UBI with a skeleton staff and a good computer and printer to roll checks out of it.
No matter what job transfers are created or administrative support roles are planned out as a result of UBI adoption, you will only be able to support a fraction of the thousands of departmental drones lurking in federal building basements. They’re going to be the first deserving takers of UBI as soon as they hit unemployment status.
In some respects, we shouldn’t care about them. Heck, the whole point of UBI is to help people like this. They can live, poorly, off UBI until the private sector absorbs their massive numbers the way it managed to absorb the defense industry layoffs in the post-Cold War 1990s.
That’s not the point, though: UBI is not going to happen because no candidate in any branch will be comfortable sponsoring the bill that will lay off tens of thousands of federal workers. It’s one thing to talk about eliminating departments during the campaign speeches, but this is a pittance compared to our social programs which account for almost a trillion dollars in spending per year.
It’s not that the Czar favors keeping our bloated, corrupt social welfare programs intact—it’s that he’s too cynical to think UBI will get further than academic consideration.
Perhaps we are wrong: perhaps Finland will discover how to roll with that punch, which will let other countries around the world anticipate this problem and accommodate it. And in 2024, when America has seen how it works, we can talk more seriously about it then.
Until then, the many benefits and many bad things that will follow with UBI are nothing more than idle chatter.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.